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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Gittin

Folio 20a

water.1  Shall we say that the scroll is itself a Get because of the portion it contains relating to 'cutting off'?2  We require that it should be written for that woman specifically,3  which is not here the case. If you should plead that possibly he gave, beforehand, a fee4  to the scribe [to write the passage in the scroll specifically for her], this also is unavailing, since we require [the insertion5  of] his name and her name, the name of his town and the name of her town, which we do not [find here]. What does [then] R. Joseph teach us here?6  — That gall-nut water makes no writing on [a sheet treated with] gall-nut water.

R. Hisda said: If a Get was written not expressly for a certain woman, and the writing was then gone over with a pen with specific reference to that woman, the same difference of opinion may arise as we find between R. Judah and the Rabbis. For it has been taught: If a scribe [copying a scroll of the Law] had to write in a certain place the Tetragrammaton7  and intended to write instead the name Judah8  and by mistake left out the letter daleth [thus actually writing the Tetragrammaton], he may go over the letters with his pen and so sanctify the Name. This is the opinion of R. Judah, but the Sages say that such a Name is not of the choicest. Said R. Aha b. Jacob: The analogy is not altogether sound; for perhaps the Rabbis ruled thus in regard to the Tetragrammaton on account of the maxim indicated in the words, This is my God and I will beautify him,9  but here they would not [object]. R. Hisda said: I am able to invalidate all the bills of divorce ever written. Said Raba to him: How so? Is it because the Scripture says, And he shall write,10  and in this case it is she who writes for him?11  Perhaps the Rabbis declare him to be the owner [of the money which she gives to the scribe].12  Is it because it is written, And he shall give,13  and here he does not give her anything [of any value]? Perhaps the delivery of the Get is referred to. That this is so is proved by the instruction sent from Eretz Israel: 'If the Get was written on something from which it is forbidden to derive any benefit,14  it is still valid.'

The text above [stated:] 'The instruction was sent from Eretz Israel: If the Get is written on something from which it is forbidden to derive a benefit, it is still valid'. R. Ashi said: We have also learned [to the same effect]: [A Get may be written] ON AN OLIVE LEAF.15  But perhaps an olive leaf is different because [although worth nothing in itself] it may yet be combined [with other things to enhance the value of the whole]?16

It has been taught: Rabbi said that if the Get is written on something from which it is forbidden to derive a benefit, it is still valid. Levi went about stating this ruling in the name of Rabbi, and it was not approved.17  He then stated it in the name of the main body of the Rabbis18  and it was approved. From this we may conclude that the law follows his ruling.19

Our Rabbis have taught: '[The Scripture says] And he shall write ["the writ of divorce"], which implies that he is not to grave it.' From this we would conclude that graving is not counted as writing. This, however, seems to be in contradiction with the following: A slave who produces a deed engraved on a tablet or a board is legally emancipated, but not if the writing is woven into a woman's headband or a piece of embroidery?20  — Said 'Ulla in the name of R. Eleazar: There is no contradiction. Graving is invalid if the letters are in relief,21  but valid if they are hollowed out.22  [You say that if the letters are] in relief it is not [valid]. Does not this contradict the following? 'The writing [on the High priest's plate]23  was not sunk in but projected like that on gold coins.' And is not [the inscription on] gold denarii in relief? — [It was] like [the inscription on] gold denarii and yet not like it. [It was] like it in the fact that it projected, but it was unlike it because there [in gold denarii the metal is hollowed] round the letters,24  but here [in the High Priest's plate] the letters themselves25  were hollowed out.

Rabina inquired of R. Ashi: Does a stamp scrape out or does it force together?26  — He replied: It makes a depression. [Rabina] thereupon raised the following objection: [It has been taught] 'The writing [on the High Priest's plate] was not sunk in but was in relief, like the [inscription on] gold denarii'. Now if a stamp makes a depression round the letters,

Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. At that time all parchment scrolls of the Law were treated in this way. Hence there was no proper writing from the outset, and consequently no Get.
  2. Deut. XXIV, 1.
  3. Lit., 'he shall write for her' (which means) 'in her name'.
  4. Lit., 'a zuz'.
  5. [his rendering omits the word [H] which is inserted in the text only inadvertently as a quotation from infra 80a; v. Rashi.
  6. Seeing that all this is obvious.
  7. The four letters Yod, He, Waw, He.
  8. The five letters Yod, He, Daleth, Waw, He.
  9. Ex. XV, 2. The words are expounded to signify. 'Beautify thyself before Him in the performance of religious duties'.
  10. Deut. XXIV, 1.
  11. By paying the scribe's fee, which she was required to do according to the Rabbinical rule, v. B.B. 168a.
  12. According to the principle. 'The Beth din has power to expropriate'. V. infra 36b.
  13. Deut. ibid.
  14. E.g.. a leaf of a tree of 'orlah (v. Glos.). Such things had naturally no monetary value.
  15. Which is also worthless.
  16. E.g., a pile of olive leaves may be bought for lying on or for feeding cattle. The Mishnah affords then no support to the message from Eretz Israel.
  17. Lit., 'it was not praised'.
  18. Lit., 'of many'.
  19. Because when it was not approved at first, Levi took the trouble to obtain additional authority.
  20. So Rashi. Jastrow, however, (s.v. [H]) translates, 'a slave does not go free in virtue of wearing a freedman's cap or of a vindicto (manumission by declaration before a court).'
  21. Lit., 'if he carved out the interior (of the plate)'.
  22. Lit., 'if he carved out the thighs (of the letters)'.
  23. V. Ex. XXVIII, 36.
  24. Lit., 'the interior'.
  25. Lit., 'the thighs'. They were pressed forward from the back and so projected in front.
  26. If it scrapes out the metal round the letters, the use of it is not writing; but it is if the letters are formed by compression.

Gittin 20b

it does not write, and [for the plate] 'writing' was required?1  — It was like [the inscription on] gold denarii and yet not like it. It was like it in the fact that it stood out, but not like it in the fact that there [in a coin] the pressure is applied on the same side [as the inscription], but here [in the plate] it was from the other side.

Raba inquired of R. Nahman: If a man writes a Get on a plate of gold and says to his wife, 'Receive herewith your Get and receive herewith your kethubah', what is the ruling? — He replied: Both her Get and her kethubah have been legally received by her. [Raba] thereupon raised an objection. [We have been taught,] If a man says, 'Receive herewith your Get and the rest can go to your kethubah', the Get has been legally received by her and the rest goes to the kethubah. Now the reason is that there is something over, but otherwise not? — No. The same rule applies even if there is nothing over, and what this [statement] teaches us is that even if there is something over, if he tells her [to take that in payment of her kethubah] she takes it, but if not, not. For what reason? — Because [in that case the rest] is [reckoned merely as] the margin of the Get.

Our Rabbis taught: [If a man says to his wife.] 'Here is your Get, but the sheet belongs to me', she is not divorced,2  [but if he said.] On condition that you return the sheet to me, she is divorced.3  R. Papa inquired: Suppose he says, [On condition that] the space between the lines, or between the words [is to belong to me], what is the ruling? — This question was left over. But cannot the question be decided from the fact that the Divine Law said 'a writ', that is to say one writ, and not two or three?4  — The difficulty still remains in the case where it is all linked together.5

Rami b. Hama propounded: Suppose a slave [is brought into court] who is known to have belonged to the husband, and a Get is written on his hand and he comes before us as the slave of the wife, how are we to decide? Do we presume that the husband transferred the slave to the wife [along with the Get],6  or do we argue that perhaps he went to her of his own accord? — Said Raba: Cannot the question be decided on the ground that the writing is such as to admit of falsification?7  But does not Raba's difficulty apply also to our Mishnah which says that a Get may be written ON THE HAND OF A SLAVE? — We understand that the Mishnah presents no difficulty to Raba. [The Mishnah was speaking of a case] where [the Get was] delivered before witnesses,8  in accordance with the ruling of R. Eleazar.9  The difficulty,10  however, arises on [the question of] Rami b. Hama!11  — According to Rami b. Hama there is no difficulty, as he is speaking of the case [where the Get was] tattooed [on the slave's hand].12  If you take that line, you can say that the Mishnah also presents13  no difficulty, as it was speaking of tattooing. What then is the answer [to Rami b. Hama's question]? — Come and hear: Resh Lakish has laid down that there is no presumptive title to living creatures.14

Rami b. Hama inquired: If a tablet was known to have belonged to the wife, and a Get is written on it, and it is produced by the husband, what do we decide? Do we say that she made it over to him, or do we argue that a woman does not know how to make over things [temporarily]?15  — Said Abaye: Come and hear: He16  also testified regarding a small village adjoining Jerusalem in which lived an old man who used to lend money to all the people of the village, and he used to write the bond and others signed it, and the case was brought before the Sages and they declared the bonds valid. Now how could they do this, seeing that there must be a 'writ of transfer'.17  Obviously the reason is that we say that he made over the bonds to them.18  Said Raba: What is the difficulty? Perhaps

Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. Ex. XXVIII, 30.
  2. Because he has to 'give' her the writ, and here there is no giving.
  3. Because a gift which is made conditionally on its being returned is still counted a gift.
  4. And in this case he makes it into several.
  5. I.e., by long letters like the final nun, which obliterate the spaces between the lines.
  6. V. Mishnah 19a.
  7. And therefore it is no Get.
  8. Who read it, and who could testify in case of falsification.
  9. Who says that the witnesses to delivery make the Get effective.
  10. Which Raba put to him.
  11. Because he was speaking of the case where there were no witnesses to delivery.
  12. And so could not be effaced.
  13. [So Var. lec., cur. edd., read 'to Raba'.]
  14. Lit., 'those kept in folds', because they are liable to stray; hence their being found in a certain man's possession is not presumptive evidence that he is the owner, and the same applies to a slave, v. B.B. 36a.
  15. Of such a nature where the transfer is a mere legal fiction designed to place the tablet in the temporary ownership of the husband to enable him to write the Get on it. Consequently the Get is not valid since it must be written on material belonging to the husband.
  16. R. Judah b. Baba. V. 'Ed. II, 3.
  17. [H] (Jer. XXXII, 10). which is taken to mean 'a document written by the transferor'. V. Kid. 26a.
  18. And they returned them to him. So here we may say that even if the wife does not intend to leave the tablet in the husband's hands permanently, yet for the time being she has given it to him, and he can therefore 'give' it to her as a Get.